Choosing the right kind of skatepark shouldn't be rocket science.
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WRITTEN BY HAYS HITZING
When facing a skateboard or BMX park project, one of the first decisions that must be made regards the build method and equipment to used in the facility. While concrete is the preferred material for municipal skateparks, other equipment types exist and should be considered - especially for smaller projects, projects with existing slabs and unusual projects that may preclude concrete construction.
During the early days of municipal skateparks, the X-Games set the example with above-ground fabricated ramps made from treated lumber and a variety of surfaces, including plywood and masonite. After the introduction of Skatelite Pro (a phenolic surface with incredible moisture resistance and near-perfect feel), the engineering minds of skatepark began to improve the sub-strate and frame of the equipment, experimenting with plastics and steel.
While some equipment still uses plastic and fiberglass (especially in Europe), it has largely been discontinued in US skatepark equipment due to its limited lifespan and propensity to expand and contract during temperature fluctuations, causing strain to the structure and rubbing against screws, creating damage and loosening the entire substrate.
In the United States, the main decision in above-ground ramps comes down to an all steel system, or a system with a steel structure and a Skatelite Pro surface. The all steel ramp is the least expensive option in municipal skatepark building. There are vendors who have refined the process to maximize the "bang for the buck", allowing a mid-five figure budget to fully outfit a smaller slab. The downside to this "quantity over quality" approach is the average performance, increased maintenance and (typically) an end product that is loud.
The Skatelite Pro systems also have maintenance needs and will likely require resurfacing within 10 years of use. The Skatelite Pro is warrantied against many issues, but may suffer from delamination after extended exposure to UV rays. However, these costs must be viewed in context with other sports facilities. Even a total resurfacing of a 10,000 sq. ft. park is a fraction of the 10 year cost of planting, maintaining, mowing, watering and fertilizing a 10,000 sq. ft. patch of baseball or football field.
Above-ground ramp systems (whether steel or Skatelite Pro) should be considered primarily for projects with an existing slab or a very limted budget/footprint. In almost every case where a skatepark will be built from unimproved land (i.e. the project will require a concrete slab to be poured), it is a better option to build a concrete skatepark. Both site-poured and pre-cast concrete offer superior performance & durability with 95% less maintenance and liability.
It seems strange to talk about "skatepark equipment" in terms of concrete skateparks, but it helps with an apples-to-apples comparison when assessing bids and proposals. For example, consider a four foot tall quarter-pipe that's eight feet wide and ten feet long. This quarterpipe could be built out of steel with a deck and handrails or pre-cast as a floating quarter-pipe or site poured with berming. Three different build methods still result in the same obstacle for skateboarders.
Assessing the different build methods, design styles and types of skatepark equipment is challenging. It is doubly challenging if you've never done it before (and may never do it again). Cities and landscape architects around the country are faced with one-off skatepark projects. Most turn to skatepark vendors or designers for guidance - but these firms usually only guide cities toward their solutions - which may or not be the best solution.
Skatepark Workshop is an independent, non-biased consultant with one client - you. Our only goal is to help you plan, fund, design and build the best possible skatepark for your community. Our staff have been through this process hundreds of times across the country with cities of every size. We know the best practices that will maximize your time and budget while avoiding the typical pitfalls of skatepark development and specification.
Contact us today by filling out our Skatepark profile, emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 614-321-2066.